Experts divided on impact of social in Alan Jones scandal

By By Amy Kellow | 4 October 2012

In the midst of the controversy surrounding 2GB presenter Alan Jones, digital experts are at loggerheads over social media's impact on the issue, with some arguing social platforms have been used to "add fuel to the fire".

The broadcaster has been lambasted across Twitter and Facebook in recent days regarding his remarks that Julia Gillard's late father "died of shame".

The controversy was a trending Twitter topic for the following four days after it went wide, boasting over 100,000 thousand tweets with the hastags #boycott2GB and #AlanJones.

Visual Jazz Isobar executive planning director Simon Small said: "Social media has probably just added fuel to the fire, and given people who don’t like him a reason to get stuck into him. For it to become a trending topic on Twitter for four days in a row means it’s had a massive amount of traction in social, totalling roughly 124,000+ mentions over four days."

"Bing Lee's tweet that it was pulling its advertising was retweeted 279 times.

"The fact that it trended on social would have triggered more media coverage and attention, as journalists now use social as a source of staying on top of what’s happening.

"It’s interesting to see that each stage of the story has driven an extra round of social response, today's conversation is all about his apology and the response from brands.

"The controversy won't stay around for too long. Ultimately, the size of his audience will dictate his future. Look at Kyle Sandilands, he went through a similar experience last year and he’s still around."

MediaCom Australia head of innovation & technology Nic Hodges agreed. "These social media campaigns to boycott advertisers have a lot of bark but no bite. It was only a few months ago a few hundred thousand people were threatening to boycott advertisers in Kyle Sandilands show - those people today would probably struggle to even name one of those brands."

Hodges did however contend that social media was crucial in determining the importance of an issue to consumers, and was unlikely to have inflated the Alan Jones situation.

"It's hard for anything to get 'blown out of proportion' in social. It's one reason social metrics can be a powerful and meaningful metric around the cultural zeitgeist.

"In this case, social media provides a metric that brands can see and understand. As with any case, that needs to be viewed in context, but in this instance it was such an overwhelming response that it's hard to argue against the view that the vast majority of Australians feel Jones' comments were out of line."

"Every person on Facebook or in Twitter or with a blog has the same tools, the same power to voice their thoughts. It seems there a lot of people who have strong thoughts about Alan Jones."

However, 303Lowe head of digital Nic Chamberlain said: "Social media in this case is a good thing. There are times where it can be a bad thing, but in this instance what he said wasn't particularly smart.

"Public figures need to be more careful than ever before. There's no way what is said in the public domain can be pushed under the carpet as perhaps it could have done in the past.

"Social media has the ability to push news and political information to a much broader group of people than ever before and i think it's fantastic people are across news.

"It hasn't blown the controversy out of proportion, I've not seen anything personally in the last few days that has done so.

"There's the line some people are willing to step over and there will always be a minority of trolls, which is a shame and a reality of the world, but that's not a bad thing and doesn't mean we're not going to use social platforms.

"Alan Jones is probably tough enough to not be too concerned about trolls," he said.

Jones has also been the target of a petition encouraging sponsors to cut ties with the network, which has now amassed over 107,000 signatures.

Several major brands including Woolworths, McDonald's, Coles and Big W have announced they have pulled their advertising.

The shock jock, who said he regretted "repeating" the comments about Gillard's father, was also the subject of last night's Gruen Transfer and The Chaser's Hamster Wheel, which dissected his response.

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